How To Remove Wallpaper Border

A few tricks and lessons will help you learn how to remove wallpaper border quickly, and with minimal mess. Spoiler alert: If I can do it, you can do it!

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Our basement bathroom drove me nuts. This small area contained four types of wallpaper, including a border featuring classic cars (ugh!) running along a built-in cabinet. It all had to go.

I asked a few professional installers for their wallpaper removal tips before taking full sheets from a bedroom wall. When I inquired about the wallpaper border, they all said the same thing: It’s just like removing full sheets. Really?

Turns out they were right, for the most part. Through a little experimentation and one big mistake, I uncovered some helpful techniques for removing a wallpaper border. I hope these insights help you easily remove the dreadful wallpaper border in your house.

It’s the Same Approach

Wallpaper removal is a wet, messy task that requires patience. Wallpaper borders come off with less fuss than full sheets. It’s easier to get a scraper behind it, so the work goes faster.

And yet, it’s still wallpaper. It’s made of the same materials and put on with the same type of adhesives. You’ll also use some of the same tools and techniques to remove the wallpaper border that you would to remove floor-to-ceiling sheets.

Don’t Skip Room Prep

Here’s where I made my big mistake: rushing through room prep.

If you’re using hot water or liquid wallpaper remover, cover all woodwork and electrical outlets below your border. I did put plastic sheeting on the floor and taped over the wall paneling under the border. But thought I could skip taping the baseboards because they were far below where I’d be working.

I soaked the wallpaper border with a removal solution (but you can also just use hot water.) Once the glue loosened, I scraped off the border and glue with a putty knife, then scrubbed off the leftover glue.

The issue: The removal solution wouldn’t stay on the wallpaper border. Instead, it ran down the wall to the baseboards. That’s why you should cover them.

Consider a Gel

I also had some gel wallpaper stripper so I gave it a try on another section of the border. Wallpaper removal gel clings to one spot with minimal running. While not ideal for full sheets of wallpaper, it’s great for smaller border strips.

The gel mostly stayed put, though it did splatter a little more than the liquid remover. I also dropped the wet wallpaper border I pulled down on the plastic sheet on the floor.

So, using gel won’t get you completely off the hook protecting your room. But test it in a small spot to see how much it splatters and runs. If it doesn’t run much, you could skip one step of room prep.

Start at the Top or Bottom Edge

Getting behind wallpaper at the edge or a seam makes it easier to scrape the piece off the wall.

It’s easy to reach the top and bottom edges, so use that to your advantage. Give them a little extra spray to get more removal solution behind the edge of the paper.

Start at the bottom edge and go up to the top edge, then go down as you scrape behind the border. Once you peel a section off the wall, scrape horizontally along the length of the strip to speed things along.

Be Gentle if You’re Trying to Save Paper Underneath

You never want to gouge your wall, but you can patch drywall or plaster if it happens. If you’re trying to save wallpaper under the border, be extremely careful. Even at that, it might not be possible.

If you’re removing a border that is laid over wallpaper, start with just hot water at the top and bottom edge and carefully add tools as needed. The strong gel I used made the color run on the vinyl wallpaper under my border, while hot water alone didn’t.

If you’re tempted to go with a wallpaper scorer on a vinyl border, be extra gentle and add pressure only as needed to avoid poking holes in the paper underneath.

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